Government Study Says Airline Fees Should Be Disclosed To Consumers

A new study from the Government Accountability Office says that the “optional” fees that airlines have invented for checked and carry-on bags; meals; blankets; early boarding; and seat selection are not adequately disclosed and consumers are not able to easily compare the total cost of flights offered by different carriers.

The office, which is the the audit, evaluation, and investigative arm of the United States Congress, recommends that that DOT require airlines to consistently disclose optional fees and notify
passengers of any refundable government fees, something they do not currently do.

The report also addresses the fact that, as airlines have moved to an fee-based business model, the shift reduced the proportion of their total revenue that is taxed to fund FAA.

The report included this cute cartoon illustrating where, during the process of booking and completing air travel, a consumer is expected to pay various fees.

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Consumers Could
Benefit from Better Information about Airline-Imposed Fees and Refundability of Government-Imposed Taxes and Fees (PDF)


Edit Your Comment

  1. smo0 says:

    It’s sad that something like that image there, would be used to joking explain the hassles of airline travel – in a sense that “omg I so know what that means” to a professional explaination of : this is what to expect when purchasing an airline ticket.
    It should be there with the “In the event of an Emergency” pictoral.

  2. dreamfish says:

    Making clear to the customer the final, all-in price for flying is a legal requirement for EU-based airlines.

    • opticnrv says:

      Same thing in Australia. It’s common sense, but not in the US where ‘gotcha capitalism’ reigns.

  3. PunditGuy says:

    No company adequately discloses fees. Cable companies sure as hell don’t. Ticketmaster? Please.

    Let’s change the rules so everyone discloses fees.

    • The Marionette says:

      I was going to say the same thing actually, but then I thought that the airlines are more prone to hidden fees than some other places (with cellphone companies being in a close 2nd). Take fast food for example. Although now some of them are now required to show the calories and what not in food, they don’t have to disclose the cost for the ingredients, packaging, shipping, maintainance, utilities for each store, employee wages. Although some of that does go a bit deeper than what the airlines are doing, none the less there are some in that list which would be something someone would probably want to know. Point is the airlines should disclose that info because for all you know you’re thinking that you will pay a certain price to fly somewhere and you end up getting slapped with fees and that puts you in risk for not having enough money to perhaps get back home.

  4. teh says:

    “refundable government fees” Anyone know what this one means? I have never encountered a government fee (when flying) that was refundable.

    • ktetch says:

      You probably did, but weren’t aware of the refundable part, so never claimed the refund.

  5. Lollerface says:

    This can only lead to higher ticket prices. Life will find a way.

    • sp00nix says:

      Would make sense, but id rather have a $75 ticket rather then a $50 and $50 in hidden fees.

    • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

      This isn’t a lycene deficiency issue here.

      Of couse prices will rise, because all the fees that are already included will be disclosed up front.

      So that $150 flight that has $75 in fees will not be $225. Duh.

  6. Grungo says:

    The problem is the US government’s taxation scheme. Fares get taxed; fees do not. So, instead of the honest solution of raising fares, the airlines raise fees instead. If fares and fees were cost-equalized from the airlines’ perspectives, we wouldn’t have to deal with this nonsense.

    • Anonymously says:

      Shhh, next thing you know they’ll be taxing the fees at a *higher* rate than the fares, and all of the fares will triple because people are bringing 13 bags each.

  7. apd09 says:

    So basically the Government is saying that luggage is a necessary part of 80%+ of air travel and should be included in the cost of the ticket as opposed to paid as a fee after the fact.

    So does this mean that they will be able to tax the fees, or that the airlines just need to be more honest about the cost of a ticket? Those are 2 completely different things.

    • ARP says:

      No, they’re saying that airlines should clearly disclose those fees so you know how much it will take to fly you and your stuff from Point A to Point B.

      As others have mentioned, fees and fares are taxed differently, pushing airlines to put more of costs to fees, so it can take advantage of better tax treatment. Of course, the end result is that you get a low fare, but all sorts of fees to drive the cost back up.

    • Harrkev says:

      What *I* would like to see is, when making reservations (even in something like Orbitz or Travelocity), the site asking you how many bags you plan to check, if you want to watch an in-flight movie (if available), etc. Then, when the prices are returned, you can see exactly how much each airline will charge, with the optional fees added in.

  8. dg says:

    Simple solution – tax all fees. Then the airlines won’t have a reason to carve them out of the fare, and will build them back in – since they’re not gaming the system…

    OR, allow them to have their fees “untaxed” until they hit a certain percentage of profits – then make the tax 300%…

    The airlines are nearly as bad as WorstBuy when it comes to service and obfuscation of costs…

    • xxmichaelxx says:

      Simpler solution: eliminate all these taxes and incorporate a national flat sales tax on everything except food and clothing.

  9. Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

    A study, huh? Wow, that’s quite interesting and useful.


    • ARP says:

      Nope- that’s socialism. That’s the problem when you accuse every government action of being socialist- it harder to do real good.

  10. DanKelley98 says:

    It took a study to determine this? How ’bout using plain old common sense…????

    • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

      Common sense does not equate to the scientific method.

    • DingoAndTheBaby says:

      This. That was literally the first sentence out of my mouth when I read the headline. So, we essentially spent lots of taxpayer money (and NOTHING gets done in the Fed. Gov’t under serveral hundred thousand dollars) to determine something that bloggers, customers, news outlets, and the general traveling public have been denouncing for a couple years now?

      No. Shit. Sherlock. Where’s the GAO when you need them to self-regulate idiots WITHIN the gov’t?

  11. erratapage says:

    I found it interesting that the luggage fees decreased costs associated with lost luggage without any accompanying quality improvement. This is the problem with the airlines–there is and has been no quality improvement.

  12. c!tizen says:

    You know, with all of these fees, long waits, cancelled flights, 3 + hour layovers on the tarmac with no food or AC, rude flight attendants, drunk and/or unlicensed pilots, out dated/un-inspected planes, unruly passengers, screaming kids, uncomfortable seats, tiny bathrooms, and… oh, lets not forget the fucking TSA (even though technically they’re not the airlines fault they still carry major suckage points), and the occasional terrorist threat I say they institute a rewards program where every time you reach 10,000 miles within 12 months you get to kick an airline executive in the nuts.

    That would almost make air travel worth it.

  13. Tiandli says:

    I hate how various companies will advertise “$39.99 a month for cable!” but add on so many fees you end up paying over $50.

    All fees that are calculated towards the total should be presented in an obvious manner. No fine print, no asterisks.

    • webweazel says:

      And then you get those wonderful “introductory price for 6 months” type of deals, and you would like to know what the price is after the 6 months is up. Just TRY to go find that information. ANYWHERE. Not happening.

  14. andoman says:

    What I want is to be able to check all things I intend to do on a flight (take a certain weight bag, etc), and then have a website that compares my total cost from one airline to another. Total cost including everything from one airline to another. It will happen eventually, and then this tactic of competing on ‘fake’ prices will start failing

  15. tfcocs says:

    When I first saw the graphics, I immediately thought that the site was reprinting old “Get your war on” strips.